Elizabeth J. Andrew is author of a spiritual memoir Swinging on the Garden Gate and Writing the Sacred Journey. She is a spiritual director and teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It takes patience and diligence to mine the spiritual meanings in the ordinary. This exquisitely written book begins in her 1930s bungalow home. For Andrew, it is much more than a box or a shell; it is a sacred place full of meanings. The cover of On the Threshold shows a door, an entrance into the author's imagination and to ours. She starts in the basement: "Mostly the Spirit seeps into our bodies like the moist chill of a basement floor on bare feet. We walk about the house, our house, a house of prayer, and breathe in its open spaces and shadowed corners. It seems like just a house, when in fact it's a framework for residing in the world. Our questions and answers begin with cement and end with roof tiles. Or they begin beneath, in the dark dirt, and end with smoke rising skyward from our chimneys. In other words, faith is a container. Its walls shape the spirit inside."
There you have it, in one paragraph, a summary of the many themes in this richly textured examination of place, flesh, community, mystery, imagination, church, prayer, and miracles. Andrew loves Minneapolis, where the seasons make strong impressions on the body and soul. She characterizes the people there in a wonderful phrase: "Minnesotans keep their thermostats down and vote in primary elections." She likes the way the woman who gives her a massage knows the map of her foot. Andrew looks at her pantry and her bedroom and reads them as sacred texts. She sees the porch as a “thin place,” the term used in Celtic mythology to describe a spot where the visible and invisible worlds converge.
At some points, her heart brims over with gratitude for the pleasure of small things; at others, she plunges into depression over years of accumulated losses. Then she finds it helpful to read the sermons of the fourteenth-century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart or sit in the pew of the Methodist Church and become reacquainted with the mysteries of her faith. One of her favorite stories is about Pentecost: "I relish the audacity of this story, how it is told with such confidence that twenty centuries of Christians, myself included, have believed it as fact. I love the idea of a magical God who can swoop into a room and set people's minds on fire." And we love an author who can consistently turn places, things, and ordinary experiences into gateways to a more soulful life. Hats off to Andrew as a master of the art of everyday spirituality!